In this series of articles we will look at some of the main winners and losers to come out of this weekend’s big race meetings and see how these performances have affected their chances of scoring a festival victory, when Cheltenham comes around in March. Some of our tips for Cheltenham festival betting are already up so check them out now!
Willie Mullins will have left Ascot last night extremely happy, after two of his stars enjoyed good Graded wins. Un De Sceaux bounced back from last month’s Leopardstown disappointment with a solid win over a game Sire De Grugy in the Grade 1 Clarence House. His odds have been flipped from 6/4 to 4/6 on to win the Queen Mother at Cheltenham.
Vroum Vroum Mag put in the most impressive victory of the day, as she cruised to victory on her first run on English soil. Ruby Walsh was perfectly still for 95% of the race, as his mount swept past everyone with consummate ease, winning without ever going into top gear. This has seen a big shift in her odds for both the World Hurdle and the Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham, moving from 12/1 and 9/1 respectively, to being the 3/1 second favourite in both races.
The Grade 3 Holloways Handicap Hurdle was won by Philip Hobbs’ Rock The Kasbah. The 7/1 co-favourite looked comfortable throughout, before moving into the lead around the final bend and holding on for victory. Baron Alco tried to take it out from the front, but stayed on well for second and Lil Rockerfeller ran another eye catching race to claim third from a very high weight. All three are entrants in the wide open Coral Cup at Cheltenham. Baron Alco has stayed put at 25/1, but Lil Rockerfeller has moved in from that mark to 16’s and Rock The Kasbah is now the 10/1 favourite for the race with Ladbrokes, after being 25/1 with some bookmakers earlier in the week.
Elsewhere at Haydock, there were impressive Grade 2 wins for Bristol De Mai and It’safreebee. Since the surprise defeat to a rampant Ar Mad in December, Bristol De Mai has bounced back with two good victories, winning yesterday by 32 lengths. Nigel Twiston-Davies’ star five year old has moved in from 16s to an 8/1 third favourite for the JLT. The Skelton duo enjoyed more success on the promising It’safreebee, leading from the front and staying on really impressively to hold off the favourite, securing a hat-trick of wins. This has seen a big move from 40/1 to 20/1 in the Supreme Novice Hurdle, but he will still probably be ranked amongst the outsiders when the festival comes around.
Sunday saw easy wins for both Douvan in the Irish Arkle and Faugheen in the Irish Champion Hurdle. The former beat very little in a field of 3 at long odds on, doing it well but with the lack of opposition meaning little effect on his Cheltenham price, but Faugheen had to beat Arctic Fire and Nichols Canyon. He did that in style, pulling well clear, and he was cut from a 4/7 shot to a 1/3 shot. The lack of any real depth in the Champion Hurdle betting is painfully obvious with such a strong favourite with the Festival still nearly two months away!
Another potential Champion Hurdle entrant is The New One, who held off Rayvin Black to win the Champion Hurdle Trial from an 8/13 starting price. Unlike the previous two victors, this result had the opposite effect on his Cheltenham odds, slipping from 12s to 25/1 for the Champion Hurdle with some bookies. The terrible conditions would have hampered him greatly, with Twiston-Davies saying before the race that he hates running on heavy ground, so I think this performance should be forgotten pretty quickly, he still remains a very high quality horse.
Salubrious put in a disappointing performance, finishing a distance fourth to Dare Me in the Ascot Handicap Chase, and the woes for Algernon Pazham continued, pulling up in the Peter Marsh Chase to make it three races in a row where he has failed to finish. Both have seen their odds in the Ultima Business Solutions Chase fall significantly; Algernon Pazham is now amongst the also rans at 33/1, with Salubrious dropping from the 16/1 joint third favourite down to 25’s.
Desert Queen and Aurore D’Estruval were second and third in the betting behind Vroum Vroum Mag and tried to take the race to her early on. But both showed that they aren’t really close to her level at the moment, eventually falling to disappointing finishes at the back of the field. Both are still prominent in the betting for the Mares Hurdle at Cheltenham, but this poor results, combined with the utter dominance of Vroum Vroum Mag, both have seen their odds slide. Aurore D’Estruval is now a 12/1 shot after being as low as 6/1 third favourite earlier in the week, Desert Queen was at 20’s before the race, but can now be found amongst the potential also-rans at 25/1.